Corporate Attack

September 25, 2007

In recent months, NACLA has
been the target of an attack by one
of the world's largest agribusiness
corporations, Castle & Cooke. The
company accuses NACLA of be-
ing a fountainhead of "mis-
information" and one of the main
instigators of a social movement
that is out to destroy American
values. According to Castle &
Cooke president, D.J. Kirchhoff,
NACLA, the "Kremlin," and "ter-
rorists" are leading religious
groups and other respectable
organizations down the path of
revolution. Many of these charges
appeared on the front page of'Bar-
ron's (a leading business weekly
with a circulation of over 230,000)
which saw fit to reprint Kirchhoff's
remarks before the Merchants &
Manufacturers Association. Kirch-
hoff has also attacked NACLA in
university speeches, in business
forums, and at the company's an-
nual meeting.
Why is Kirchhoff leveling this at-
tack at NACLA and "those church
groups that are either NACLA's
allies or unknowingly provide an
appearance of respectability
(sic)?" He claims that his assault is
"part of my responsibility to my
shareholders, to my employees
and to the American people."
What he conveniently fails to men-
tion is that NACLA played a role in
exposing some of Castle &
Cooke's corrupt and repressive
activities abroad.
THE HONDURAN SCANDAL
As part of its world-wide empire,
Castle & Cooke operates large
banana plantations in Central
America. In late 1977, NACLA
38
visited the company's operations
in Honduras and discovered that
Castle & Cooke had busted the
union in its plantation there and
that some union leaders had been
thrown in jail. The company also
assisted a military raid on a nearby
plantation run by a workers'
cooperative on lands abandoned
by Castle & Cooke. Some of the
leaders of the cooperative were
arrested and imprisoned for well
over a year. Later, in 1978, NACLA
obtained and publicized official
company documents revealing
that Castle & Cooke made regular
payments to Honduran military of-
ficers, customs officials and local
newspaper reporters.
Church and secular organiza-
tions, which had been pressuring
Castle & Cooke for several years
to end its more exploitative prac-
tices at home and abroad, de-
nounced the company's Honduran
activities at Castle & Cooke's an-
nual meeting in 1978. Like any
good corporate citizen caught with
its hand in the till, the company
publicly claims that its actions are
above reproach. "Off the record",
however, it told some of its church
critics that making payments to
military officers and local officials
is the only way that business can
be conducted in a country like
Honduras. Castle & Cooke is simp-
ly following quaint local customs
by scattering its dollars around in
government and military circles.
SMOKE SCREEN
In public statements Castle &
Cooke has never directly respond-
ed to the charges made by
NACLA. Instead, the president
of Castle & Cooke is trying to throw
a smoke screen around the com-
pany's activities by mounting a
campaign to discredit its critics.
While some of Kirchhoff's al-
legations against NACLA and the
company's other critics are
ridiculous and even humorous, the
company's obvious attempt to
stoke the embers of McCarthyism
are all too serious. By portraying
groups like NACLA as sinister
Marxist organizations that are mis-
leading others, the company clear-
ly hopes to divide the diverse
forces that are involved in the anti-
corporate movement.
NACLA's attempt to document
and articulate a perspective that
sees corporate abuses as an in-
herent part of our economic
system is precisely what has
drawn such heavy fire from the
company. Castle & Cooke knows
that far more than its public image
is at stake. The company's
greatest fear is that the anti-
corporate movement might spill
over to a movement for more fun-
damental social change.
In reality, Castle & Cooke has
good reason to be worried, as do
the other corporate giants that
dominate the economy. The fact
that Kirchhoff feels threatened by
an organization like NACLA
(whose total budget is less than
half of his own annual salary) is a
sign of the corporation's loss of
public credibility. NACLA and
the company's other critics are
not a "carping melodramatic
elite" as Kirchhoff alleges, but are
a part of a growing popular
groundswell of disaffection with
the U.S. economic system.
According to a recent Harris poll,
only 18 percent of Americans ex-
press significant confidence in
business leaders, compared to 55
percent in the early '70s.
NACLA Reportupdate * update update * update
The sources of this disillusion-
ment are evident. The American
people know they are forced to
bear the brunt of double-digit infla-
tion, lagging economic growth,
high unemployment, environmen-
tal pollution, and skyrocketing oil
prices-all this while they watch
corporate profits continue to rise.
Revelations of political slush funds
in this country and interventionist
meddling on behalf of repressive
regimes abroad have all con-
tributed to the growing loss of cor-
porate credibility.
THE CORPORATE OFFENSIVE
Castle & Cooke's attacks are
just one small skirmish in a much
broader offensive by the corporate
world aimed at overcoming this
growing popular disaffection. On
TV and radio, in newspapers and
magazines, the corporations and
big banks are now selling us not
only their products and brand
names, but also the capitalist
system itself. Mobil Oil, Xerox,
Citibank, Exxon, Chase Manhat-
tan-these are just several of the
economic giants that have laid out
millions of dollars trying to prop up
the ideological foundations of
capitalism.
Other groups besides NACLA
have been on the corporate firing
line in recent months. Bechtel, a
large transnational construction
firm, is trying to discredit Mother
Jones magazine for exposing the
company's ties with the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA). And
Nestle, another of the world's
largest agribusiness corporations,
has unleashed a well-financed
campaign against a network of
groups lobbying for an end to the
sale of Nestle's infant formula milk
in third world countries. And the
Inter-faith Center on Corporate
Responsibility, which files dissi-
Sept/Oct 1979
" Those Who Believe in Capitalism
Must Fight Back by D.J. Kirchhoff
I wanted to speak with you today about a campaign being waged
against Castle & Cooke by some so-called "public interest" groups,
many of them church-related. This campaign has challenging implica-
tions for everyone in this room-and for everyone who believes in the
opportunity for people to grow in a climate of personal and economic
liberty.
What concerns me today is a more direct assault on our economic
system. This siege is spearheaded by what can only be called a
"movement"-an amorphous group of people who believe as an act
of faith that capitalism is inefficient, wasteful, unjust, inhumane, ex-
ploitative, monopolistic and profit-oriented at the expense of the
workers. ....
It is ironic that our principal antagonists, or at least our principal
visible antagonists, come from the church community. Eliot Janeway
puts it best: "The Kremlin has found a new outlet for its well known
technique of harnessing the religious cadres it detests to the political
conspiracies it hatches." Spokesmen from prestigious church
organizations have confronted Castle & Cooke at annual stock-
holders'meetings with charges so outlandish that they would not nor-
mally warrant any comment. We have been accused of depressing
conditions of our host countries, holding down wages and con-
tributing to Third World malnutrition by exporting goods for profit ....
I spoke of the attacks on Castle & Cooke by these church groups
as being orchestrated. In one Central American country, where we
have made important contributions to personal welfare and the na-
tional economy, a leftist newspaper tried to discredit our operations
by alleging that we were paying local police to break strikes. The
seeds of this slanderous "Yankee go home" attack were sown by a
Marxist, tax-exempt New York and Oakland-based organization called
the North American Congress on Latin America, or NACLA. NACLA
was organized in 1967. It is a principal source of so-called
"research" against U.S.-based multinationals ....
NACLA research may simultaneously appear in attacks against
your company at stockholders' meetings, in the straight and under-
ground press, in the hostile press at your overseas locations and in
the journals that NACLA itself publishes and distributes.
Castle & Cooke is a stabilizing force in our host countries, con-
tributing to their political and economic well-being. We operate at
cross purposes to NACLA and its front organizations, because they
view social improvement as an obstacle to revolutionary change. We,
therefore, are a high-priority target of NACLA and those church
groups that are either NACLA's allies or unknowingly provide an ap-
pearance of respectability ...
I am convinced that our path, rather than theirs, is the one that of-
fers more hope for the future, but it cannot be accomplished in a
vacuum or by one corporation. Let's revitalize our corporate leader-
ship and take the offensive, in the best tradition of American
capitalism.
Excerpted from Barrons-Feb. 19, 1979
dent stockholder resolutions, has
been attacked by a number of
corporations, including Nestle
and Castle & Cooke.
Today we are witnessing only
the beginning of the corporate
assault on progressive organiza-
tions. As the economic crisis
deepens, and as the capitalist
system proves increasingly in-
capable of meeting our most fun-
damental needs, the corporations
will step up their offensive. The at-
tempts at red-baiting are also likely
to intensify as the corporations
look for scapegoats to blame for
the problems they have created.
Progressive forces should be
ready for this challenge.
CORPORATE PROFILE
With sales of over $1.3 billion,
Castle & Cooke operates on three
continents. Founded in Hawaii by
missionaries in 1851, the company
was a leading force in colonizing
the Islands. In 1964, Castle &
Cooke bought the Standard Fruit &
Steamship Co. (infamous in Cen-
tral America) and is today one of
the world's three largest banana
companies. In the Philippines,
where the company owns vast
plantations, Castle & Cooke has
been criticized by martial law op-
ponents for its cozy relationship
with the Marcos government. Best
known for its Dole-brand pine-
apples and bananas, as well as
Bumble Bee Seafoods, it is also a
major real estate speculator in
California and Hawaii. One of its
recently acquired subsidiaries,
Bud Antle Co. (a large California
lettuce grower) has been involved
in bitter labor disputes with the
United Farm Workers Union.

Tags: Castle & Cooke, agribusiness, NACLA, Honduras, slander


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